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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 May 2006, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Alert fails to halt prison honour
Army bomb disposal officers examined the package
Army bomb disposal officers examined the package
A security alert has failed to disrupt celebrations granting the Freedom of the City of Lisburn to the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

At least 10 homes were evacuated while Army bomb disposal experts examined a suspect package on Saturday.

It was found at the back of the civic centre, where the ceremony was being held, but was later declared a hoax.

Chief Superintendent Ken Hennings said the actions had been despicable and intent on disrupting the ceremony.

"It is despicable that there are those still willing to cause disruption and upheaval," he said.

"I have no doubt that those responsible were intent on disrupting the ceremony taking place in the civic centre - thankfully we were able to allow the ceremony to continue throughout the alert."

While the attention of the world was often on the prisoners, many of our staff had to endure a daily routine of fear and intimidation
Robin Masefield
Director General NI Prison Service

Speaking at the ceremony, Prison Service Director General Robin Masefield said it was a great honour for all the staff who had faced testing times in the past 35 years.

"The recognition which Lisburn City Council has bestowed on us and the wider Prison Service family today is immensely appreciated," he said.

"The professionalism and dedication of prison staff on behalf of the public during some of Northern Ireland's darkest days cannot be questioned."

The Lisburn area has been home to two of Northern Ireland's main prisons - the Maze Prison which closed in 2000 and Maghaberry which opened in 1987 and remains as the main jail.

Mr Masefield said that between 1974 and 1993, some 29 prison staff, eight at the Maze, had been murdered by terrorists.

"Many more were injured, on and off duty, or had their homes attacked," he said.

"Countless others had their lives uprooted, while they and their families were forced to re-locate due to the terrorist threat.

"It is on occasions such as this that we particularly remember these colleagues."

He outlined the difficulties of serving in the Maze, which housed some of Northern Ireland's most notorious paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles.

"While the attention of the world was often on the prisoners, many of our staff had to endure a daily routine of fear and intimidation," he said.

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